Thursday, June 1, 2006

Broken borders or broken system.

The underlying theme of the opponents of comprehensive immigration reform has been the constant comparison between those who enter the nation "the right way" and "those who have chosen to break the law, and enter illegally." They insist that since there is an adequate mechanism in place to allow for reasonable immigration, those who don't avail themselves of it do so in order to cheat the system at the expense of others that have waited and gone through proper channels. Their entire case against "illegal aliens" is based on the premise that there is in fact a legal path available for immigration and it is those who make the conscious decision not to follow that path, who need to be punished.

The myth of the orderly (albeit long) line of immigrants, all offered the same fair chance to attain the American dream is continually played up in right-wing rhetoric. Politicians and partisans alike refer to their own immigrant pasts and how their ancestors "did it the right way" or how this new group of "illegal" immigrants are not willing to wait their turn "in line." They say, "They must go to the back of the line", or "it’s not fair to those who have waited in line" It’s all about "the line."

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From the Republican talking points on immigration reform:

"The first responsibility of the federal government is to control its borders. Let us have compassion for those people who want to come here legally, but let us also insist on accountability and strict control of the borders for those who don’t.

Let’s use our border security to communicate that there is a better way to come here: follow the rules, follow the regulations, get the right permits, come here to experience the American Dream, but do it the right way…the legal way."

Link "Respect for the Law & Economic Fairness: Illegal Immigration Prevention", Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research

This approach would be good if in fact it even remotely represented anything close to reality. In fact this frame is so far from the actual practices of US immigration policy it moves beyond the realm of the disingenuous into the territory of an outright lie.

By big margins, Mexican workers have been the dominant group coming to the United States over the last two decades, yet Washington has opened only limited legal channels for them, and has then repeatedly narrowed those channels.

"People ask: Why don't they come legally? Why don't they wait in line?" said Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington. "For most Mexicans, there is no line to get in."

The United States offers 5,000 permanent visas worldwide each year for unskilled laborers. Last year, two of them went to Mexicans. In the same year, about 500,000 unskilled Mexican workers crossed the border illegally, researchers estimate, and most of them found jobs.

"We have a neighboring country with a population of 105 million that is our third-largest trading partner, and it has the same visa allocation as Botswana or Nepal," said Douglas S. Massey, a sociology professor at Princeton.

Link New York Times

In 2004 (the most current year recorded) a total of 155,330 immigrants were granted employment based permanent residence status. Out of those green cards issued, only 5000 are allocated for the "unskilled" and only two went to Mexicans in that "unskilled" (EW3) class.

Amongst all the other classes of employment based green cards such as business professionals, high tech and other workers with "highly needed skills", investors, clergy and healthcare professionals Mexico did fair slightly better, receiving a little over seven thousand (4.55%) of those green cards issued. But a quick look at the breakdown of these green cards by country of last residence shows that 56.5% of all issued went to just six countries.

34,983 India 22.52%
14,021 Philippines 9.03%
13,352 China 8.60%
9,893 Canada 6.37%
8,221 Korea 5.29%
7,253 United Kingdom 4.67%

The remainder was split between the hundreds of other countries from which immigrant workers apply to become part of the American Dream. At the end of the day the unskilled worker in Mexico or Guatemala and the medical doctor or systems engineer from Botswana or Burundi are all in the same boat as far as US immigration policy is concerned. There just is no "line" to get on to enter the country legally.

When the Republican talking points are viewed side by side with the actual statistics from Office of Immigration Statistics of the Department of Homeland Security it becomes obvious that the right- wing has deliberately chosen to misrepresent the facts to the American people.

In fact they must perpetuate the myth that the system is not only fair and equitable, but also presents amble opportunities for all who wish to immigrate in order to build their entire case against "illegal aliens". In order for them to call for the upholding of the law, they must make Americans assume the "law" is in fact just and evenhanded. It is a crucial assumption that must be accepted in order for the framing to work.

"It’s time to treat America’s laws like laws – not like guidelines to be followed or ignored depending on one’s choice or country of birth. There is a right way and a wrong way to enter this country. If you do it the wrong way, there should be consequences. In America, when you break the law, you should be held accountable for your behavior."

Link "Respect for the Law & Economic Fairness: Illegal Immigration Prevention", Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research

Herein lays the cornerstone on which all the right-wing rhetoric is based. As long as they can continue to convince the American people that there is amble opportunity for "illegal aliens" to enter the country legally, but they "chose" to not to go through proper channels, their argument holds up. Once that premise is removed from the table the entire right-wing case falls like a house of cards.


Don Q Reynolds said...

The House of Cards, you will find, is made of the hardest stone. There is NO right to immigrate to this country, except by legal means. Those who invite themselves should not expect much of a welcome. Perhaps they would have more luck with another country, like North Korea. I can assure you, this will not be over until every one of them is deported.

theboz said...


I'm sure that they will all gladly go back to their home countries as soon as the U.S. brings all of our corporations home and stop using our military to overthrow democratically elected governments so we can help Chiquita Banana, BP, and ConAgra huge profits.

The fact of the matter is, we've ruined the countries in South America, and we have literally killed people and ruined countless lives. We bear responsibility for all that has happened to make these places poor, so the least we can do is let them come here for some safety and a way to take care of their families. It's a small price to pay for all that we've done.